Some Basic Guidlines for LED Lighting in Aquariums
When looking at getting LED lighting for your aquarium, it can seam overwhelming when considering all the features and options that you will have to choose from. However, it doesn’t have to be all that difficult if you keep it simple. I have learned that applying a few simple concepts, or rules of thumb, LED lighting become a whole lot easier to understand. The below is what I have learned. This is not and all inclusive set of instructions, just something simple to get you started if you have no experience with LED lighting. Most people do not pay attention to the angle of the lenses used or do not understand how different the wattage can be with a LED diode (as compared to a T5 or T8 bulb) and they end up with a fixture that really will not meet their long term needs.
I have included some simple guidelines for both fresh water and marine environments so you may also have a few other points of comparison.
- For tanks that are 36 to 48 inches long and 12 to 24 inches tall, I would suggest a fixture that is about 6 to 8 inches wide (or even a little wider) – For a 48 inch long fixture you should have around 30 to 40 1 watt LEDs, either Cree or Apollo manufactured LED diodes.
- For a 36 inched tank, about 25 to 30 1 LED just as mentioned. This would give you the options for easy to keep and some of the moderately depending plants.
- Get a fixture with about 20% more LEDs if you think (or are planning) that want more demanding plants in the future or corals for a marine set-up.
- If you are putting this fixture on a freshwater set-up, then choose LEDs with a color temp of less than 7,000K. -If you are putting this fixture on a marine tank, then choose LEDs with a color temp of higher than 12,000K, 18,000 to 20,000K is best.
- For a fresh water set-up you can add a few red or Fugi pink colored LEDs if you want to help the colors in your tank “pop”
- For a marine set-up you can add a few Fugi pink or actinic LEDs you want to help the colors in your tank “pop”. You can also have a 50/50 mixture of 12,000 to 18,000K white and 22,000K or higher blue LEDs and still support coral growth (most corals) while helping to limit algae.
- Add a controller to adjust the intensity of the light if you want. Many different manufactures make the LED controllers differently with a lot of different options. You should research this carefully so you know what you can and cannot control.
- For lenses, I would suggest a mixture of about 50% of the lenses around 40 to 60 degrees, the rest around 60 to 80 degrees. This will determine how much light intensity will be reaching the bottom of the tank and is just as important, if not more important, than the wattage of the LEDs themselves. The below simple diagram (not to scale) can help you better understand what I am talking about
I hope you have found this information useful You can also read through the below link for some additional information on reef aquarium lighting https://www.reefaquarium.com/2012/reef-lighting-2/
The below link also contains a lot very information as well
Posted in Reef, Setting up an aquarium
Tags: aquarium lighting, LED aquarium lighting, led lighting
21 thoughts on “Some Basic Guidlines for LED Lighting in Aquariums”
Hello! I have had a 55 gallon reef set up for 10yrs. Very Basic Set Up. for the past 3-4 yrs or more, I had let it go. I’m now getting it back up and running. I need to replace my T12 110W Italian VHO Lighting (w/2 lights, 220W’s). I have about 75lbs of live rock, some polyp coral, fish and inverts. I would like have soft and hard corals, anemones, and a clam or 2. I do not want to spend a lot of money. I am looking at T5 HO or LED. Here are 2 items i’m looking at on ebay….
item 161238446088 48″ LED •64x 3W LED (48x 10000K daylight, 16x 460nm Actinic)
item 380547188976 48″ T5 HO
•T5 HO 54W x4.
•Dual Lunar module x4. ( 2 LEDs in each module)
2x 54W 10000K daylight bulbs, 2x 54W True Actinic bulbs, 4x Dual lunar LEDs
I’m thinking these are well below anythign you woudl consider, but probably an upgrade to the T12 110’s I currently have.
Can you make a recommendation? Or point me in another direction? Around $200-250 in the most I want to spend at this time.
Both lighting options should do just fine on a standard 55 gallon tank if you want to keep anemones and SPS corals, however, I would recommend the T5 as a better option of the two options that you have listed in your post.
That LED lighting in your link is a little too low of a color spectrum for my liking. I would recommend a fixture with more blue emitters and white ones that have a higher color specturn.
The T5 would work a little better if you were to up-grade the white bulbs from 12,0000 to 14,000 or 18,000K and replace one of the actinic bulbs with a super blue bulb with 20,000 to 22,000K. But you would not need to do that until the current bulbs are ready for replacement. Once replaced, your lighting would be a lot better
Can you show me a t5 18000k with 54 w. Thank you
What exactly are you looking for ?
I have a 15 gallon tall sw tank. It has a carpet anemone in it. It’s about 5+ years old.
We bought a ‘Marineland’ ‘ Blue Accent LED Hidden lighting’
17″ lighting system
I would like to add a brain and different corals to the tank.
Is this enough lighting?
Without knowing the make and model, I am only guessing here. Although the light might be enough, the colour spectrum is not the best. Actinic lighting doesn’t provide the best usable light for a anemone. Try finding something in the 10,000 to 18,000 K colour spectrum
Very well written.exact information what a hobbiest is looking.I have seen many website who go totally deep into technical stuff which is not needs for us and at the end they won’t say how many lights v need to put on for our aquariums.thank u verrrrrrry much very useful…
I am wanting to start a smaller 29 gallon reef tank I would like the light I purchase to be capable of growing any coral in may choose. What ligh would you recommend
Take a look at AI’s website. Anything similar to the older SOL model will fit your needs
I have a 45 gallon corner tank that I believe is 36 inches deep. I am looking at buying the sbreef light 16 pro. Will this penetrate the tank enough? I want to start with beginner corals and work up from there
Could you post a link to the specs of this fixture ? I can take a quick look and give you my thoughts
I have a jbj orion Lt 120w led light over a 29 gal saltwater coral setup. There are six preset settings, and they all seem wrong. I can adjust the whites and blues from 0-100%. I am having a major brown algea problem, and I could use some help with a custom lighting/intensity schedule. I think it’s way too intense for 100% white. Please help. There is nothing anywhere about this light.
Sound like you may have never substrate in your set-up leaching out silicates causing diatoms. If this could be the situation, then your lighting will have minimal effect on this. Increasing your water change schedule combined with a very light substrate cleaning will help to reduce the diatoms over time.
I am doing Ro.di. Water changes now, but I still would like some type of intensity schedule. The guy at lfs. Said 20%white 70% blue. Green star polyps and pulsing xenia are not opening. Baby white rose bubble tip nem, frogspawn, and zoas all doing fine. Still having algea issues.
It is hard for me to give you some advice on your lighting without knowing more about your fixture. Make & model would help. Also, what size/height is your tank
Anything at all would be nice. I still don’t know what to set these lights at. Right now I’m 9:30a.m. ramp up 20%white 50%blue, 2:00 35% white 70% blue, 8:00 20%white 60% blue, 9:00p.m. 0% white 1%blue. The light says there are multiple colors of blue, purple, white, and something else I’ve never heard of. I’m afraid I’m losing spectrum from the low white settings, since the white controls two colors???? If you could help me with an intensity schedule for this light, I would appreciate it. (Jbj orion Lt 120)
That was a nice and short article with lots of knowledge. I want to know few more detail about the LED lighting. It’s a technical thing that I am confused about.
Are 1 watt Led enough as many places they say 1 watt LED don’t have enough penetration power for the light reach to the bottom of the tank. And how to actually calculate the power supply i need to buy for the 40 LEDs ( 48 Inch long aquarium). There are many sites with ton’s of details but non of them are simple enough for some one like me with no electronics back ground to understand. Thank you
What is the height of your tank and how much light do you want to reach the bottom ?
Great article, perhaps you can help me specifically with my tank. I have a 50 gallon tank I want to grow a mix of hard and soft coral in it with some small fish. The dimensions of the tank are 48″L x 12″W x 20″H. I have two LED lights found here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00KL8TRKK/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
I am looking for guidance on height placement.
I have a 20 gallon long tank.I want a led light but the ones I see are extendable and it aooears tha the light itself is about 12 inches, the llength is about 30 inches . so will a led light extended out to 30 inches with a 12 inch body be able to light up my tank?
That all depends on the lighting requirements of what you want to put in your tank. If you could share that and more details about the LEDs in this fixture, i may be able to help